## Expecting the Unexpected: Borel’s Paradox

One of the best ways to shorten a proof in statistics or probability is to use conditioning arguments. I myself have used the Law of Total Probability extensively in my work, as well as other conditioning arguments in my PhD dissertation. Like many things in mathematics, there are subtleties that, if ignored, can cause quite…

Networking Mathematics: Random Early Detection and TCP synchronization

## Networking Mathematics: Random Early Detection and TCP synchronization

Computer networks are something most of us take for granted--speed, reliability, availability are expectations. In fact, network problems tend to make us very angry, whether it's dropped packets (yielding jittery Skype calls), congestion (that huge game download eating all the bandwidth), or simply a network outage. There's an awful lot going on underneath the hood…

Little’s Law: For Estimation Only

## Little’s Law: For Estimation Only

I had been intending on writing some posts on queuing theory for a while now, as this branch is the closest to my research interests and was the spark that sent me down the road that eventually led to my PhD dissertation. Most are quite familiar with the concepts of queuing theory, at least intuitively,…

Almost every textbook in probability or statistics will speak of classifying distributions into two different camps: discrete (singular in some older textbooks) and continuous. Discrete distributions have either a finite or a countable sample space (also known as a set of Lebesgue measure 0), such as the Poisson or binomial distribution, or simply rolling a…

Poisson Processes and Data Loss

## Poisson Processes and Data Loss

There are many applications for counting arrivals over time. Perhaps I want to count the arrivals into a store, or shipments into a postal distribution center, or node failures in a cloud cluster, or hard drive failures in a traditional storage array. It's rare that these events come neatly, one after the other, with a…

The Central Limit Theorem isn’t a Statistical Silver Bullet

## The Central Limit Theorem isn’t a Statistical Silver Bullet

Chances are, if you took anything away from that high school or college statistics class you were dragged into, you remember some vague notion about the Central Limit Theorem. It's likely the most famous theorem in statistics, and the most widely used. Most introductory statistics textbooks state the theorem in broad terms, that as the…

Probabilistic Ways to Represent the Lifetime of an Object

## Probabilistic Ways to Represent the Lifetime of an Object

Every item, system, person, or animal has a lifetime. For people and animals, we typically just measure the lifetime in years, but we have other options for items and systems. We can measure airplane reliability in flight hours (hours actually flown), or stress test a manufacturing tool in cycles. Regardless of the units we use,…